Genre: Feature Documentary
Festivals: 2013: Official Opening Night Film Hot Docs, Official Competition Karlovy Vary International Film Festival [Czech Republic] (Honorable Mention Best Documentary), Official Competition Opening Night Zurich Film Festival [Switzerland], Woodstock Film Festival [USA], DOCNYC [USA], Bergen International Film Festival [Norway], Goteborg International Film Festival [Sweden], Antenna Documentary Festival [Australia], DMZ [South Korea]
Market Prominence: Winner IDFA Forum Pitch, Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) Award, Shaw Media-Hot Docs Award
Sales: Cinetic Media (US), SideWays Film (Int’l), KinoSmith (Canada)
Produced by Six Island Productions, in association with TVO, and with the assistance of Shaw Media-Hot Docs and the Tribeca Film Institute
In the early 80s, the Cohens were a tight-knit, Jewish suburban family – the very picture of a happy family. Roger, a hardworking Israeli immigrant and Brenda, a caring homemaker, were in love and devoted to their two sons, Shawney and Sammy.
But soon Roger found himself struggling in a streak of bad luck. One after another, his jobs and business ventures failed to deliver the luxurious life he had dreamed about during his impoverished childhood. With his back against the wall, Roger made a bold move. He bought a bar in Guelph – a small town near Toronto – and turned it into a strip club called “The Manor” with an adjoining 32-room hotel.
The Cohens’ lives would never be the same again.
Fast forward nearly thirty years to the present and it becomes clear that the peculiar attraction/repulsion effect the strip club has had on the Cohens borders on Greek tragedy. While the lifestyle it affords ties them together, it also serves to push them apart as a constant source of stress and embarrassment. Over the years father Roger fully embraced the business, adopting a Tony Soprano-like swagger, penchant for vulgar language and explosive temper. The Manor became Roger’s whole life, and by extension influenced the entire family. After graduating high school the youngest son Sammy followed in his father’s footsteps choosing to begin working at The Manor while still in his teens. Meanwhile, mother Brenda began to distance herself from the business, starting down an acute anorexic spiral that would come to threaten her life.
At the heart of the story is the eldest son, Shawney Cohen, a struggling filmmaker by trade and the family outsider. At first rejecting the family business, Shawney headed to Toronto to go to university and find work. But a decade later after becoming frustrated with life in the city, Shawney came back to The Manor, intending to stay just long enough until he get back on his feet. And so Shawney too got drawn into the allure of the family business, spending years both managing the bar and filming.
Told from the unique perspective of an insider, THE MANOR is an astonishingly intimate and rarely seen portrait of a family facing the consequences of their livelihood and the demons that come along with it.